Marilyn McCord Adams
William Ockham is probably the most notorious and most widely misunderstood philosopher of the later Middle Ages. Accused by John Lutterell, the former chancellor of Oxford University, of teaching heretical doctrines, Ockham was summoned to Avignon by Pope John XXII and eventually lived under the protection of Louis of Bavaria. Yet, with Aquinas and Scotus, he remains among the three greatest philosophers of the period.
This landmark study offers a clear and concise account of Ockham’s philosophical positions (his ontology, logic, epistemology, and natural philosophy), along with the arguments for them. It then shows how Ockham’s theological disagreements with his most eminent predecessors are a logical consequence of underlying philosophical differences.
According to Marilyn McCord Adams, Ockham emerges as a Franciscan Aristotelian, much more philosophically and religiously conservative than commonly supposed. Adams challenges the notions that Ockham’s nominalism and ontological reductions lead to subjectivism in metaphysics, his epistemology to skepticism, his theory of causality to Humean constant conjunction or to occasionalism. Likewise, Adams rejects the notion that Ockham’s philosophical doctrines lead to heretical views in theology, or that his insistence on divine freedom leads to arbitrariness and caprice in ethics.
Although her primary focus is on Ockham, McAdams compares and contrasts his positions with those of Aquinas, Scotus, Henry of Ghent, among others. William Ockham constitutes an excellent initiation for philosophers into the problems and theoretical framework of the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries.
“In this illuminating work, [Marilyn McCord] Adams offers an impressive and exhaustive series of detailed discussions of Ockham’s thought on complex problems and issues within the domains of logic, ontology, epistemology, metaphysics, and theology. . . . The comprehensive and definitive treatment of each topic . . . makes Adam’s studies useful as an introduction to the complex problems and concerns of medieval philosophy and theology in general. For any further examinations of Ockham, this magisterial work will certainly set the highest standard.” — Choice
“If I had written this book, I could die a happy man. I did not write it, but still I can join mediaevalists everywhere in celebrating its publication. . . . Adams’s William Ockham will stand as the definitive study of Ockham’s overall philosophical and theological views for a long time to come. . . . It is an impressive achievement. . . . Adams’s book is a milestone.” — The Philosophical Review
“. . . [I]t is undoubtedly the most impressive, perceptive, and fair-minded study of both the strength and shortcomings of Ockham’s metaphysics, epistemology, and philosophy of religion that has appeared in many a year.” — International Studies in Philosophy
“. . . Adams’s present two-volume Herculean effort is nothing if not the work of a precise mind getting absolutely clear about the arguments and issues under examination. It totally supplants [Gordon] Leff’s work as a guide to Ockham and is likely to remain the standard work on this scholastic giant for the next generation.” — Canadian Journal of Philosophy
“In Adams’s study we get . . . the most thorough and careful study imaginable of [Ockham’s] work. The two volumes together comprise a huge and rich treasure house of medieval philosophy.”— Philosophy of Religion
“[Marilyn Mccord Adams’s] book William Ockham is a tribute to her persistent and careful scholarship. Her comprehensive study provides far more than a passing introduction to Ockham’s thought and should serve as a basis for further discussion among Ockham experts.” — Franciscan Studies